Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Member states reject EU system of donating unsold food

  • MEPs want member states to 'provide incentives for the collection of unsold food products in food retail and food establishments and for their redistribution to charitable organisations'. (Photo: Ricardo)

EU member states are refusing to accept an idea by the European Parliament that would require them to set up a system for redistributing unsold food to charitable organisations.

The states, coming together in the Council of the European Union, reject the parliament's amendment to a European Commission proposal, outlining new rules on waste.

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"In order to prevent food waste, member states should provide incentives for the collection of unsold food products in food retail and food establishments and for their redistribution to charitable organisations," MEPs wanted to add to the proposed legislation.

The amendment, however, is not acceptable to national governments, EUobserver learned through classified documents, which were obtained on condition of not citing directly from them.

The member states are also against including a so-called food waste hierarchy in the legal text - something which MEPs had advocated for.

The hierarchy designed by the MEPs would require member states to prioritise in the following order: prevention at the source; rescuing edible human food; then rescuing edible animal food; organic recycling; using food waste to produce energy; and disposal.

The EU countries rejected a parliamentary amendment, which would say: "Member states shall provide incentives for the prevention of food waste, such as setting up voluntary agreements, facilitating food donation or, where appropriate, taking financial or fiscal measures."

The Council is also refusing to grant the EU parliament's wish of setting out specific EU targets to reduce food waste.

MEPs want to specify that the bloc should throw away 30 percent less food in 2025, and 50 percent in 2030.

Instead, the Council wants to keep the original EU commission text, which is less specific.

"Member states should take measures to promote prevention of food waste in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015, and in particular its target of halving food waste by 2030," the commission's original proposal said.

The proposal was published in December 2015, and the Council and EU parliament are currently negotiating on its final version in talks, known in Brussels as trilogues.

A compromise deal, facilitated by the commission, is needed before the rules can become law.

The documents also showed that the Council wants to keep the parliament out of the procedure of creating a methodology to measure progress on reducing food waste.

The commission had proposed, which the Council supports, for this methodology to be set down in a so-called implementing act, a type of secondary legislation made through committees of national government representatives - and that does not involve the EU parliament.

MEPs, by contrast, want the methodology to be determined through a delegated act, which is also a type of secondary legislation but one that would give MEPs a chance to veto it if they are not satisfied.

The delegated versus implementing act scrum is a regular feature of negotiations between parliament and council.

Circular economy

The commission's legislative waste package also deals with how to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

It was a reaction to a previously withdrawn proposal, which had been drafted by the previous administration, led by former EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

After the Jean-Claude Juncker commission faced a public backlash over withdrawing it, it introduced a new piece of legislation under the umbrella term circular economy.

At its presentation in December 2015, Juncker's right-hand man, Frans Timmermans, said the new package was more ambitious because it covered more aspects of the circular economy, but also because some of the targets were more realistic.

EU serves up soft proposals on food waste

In its Circular Economy strategy paper, published earlier this month, the EU Commission says nothing about a previously announced target to reduce food waste by 2025.

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